Foreign nationals often want to set down roots in the United States. Most loan programs require a social security number, which you don’t have. This may make you feel like it’s impossible to get a mortgage, fortunately, there are ways around it. If you have an ITIN, and you meet the loan requirements, you may secure the financing you desire for a mortgage.
Credit is Important
Before lenders will approve you for a mortgage, they need to see your financial habits. Do you pay your bills on time? Do you overextend your credit? Lenders need these answers.
The only way to get those answers is with a credit history. Without a social security number, though, you won’t have one. Fortunately, many creditors extend credit with just an ITIN.
We recommend starting small. Apply for a secured credit card, which is a credit card with a deposit. The credit card company reports your credit card usage and payments to the credit bureau in exchange for a deposit on your account. The credit card company will give you a credit line equal to the deposit. If you put $100 down, you get a $100 credit line.
As you use your credit and pay your bills on time, you will build up credit. You may want two of these trade lines just to build up your credit. Once you establish yourself for six months or so, apply for an unsecured credit card or personal loan. Keep your loan amount request small, but see if you can get any other type of loan that will help build your credit.
As you continue to pay your bills on time and use your credit responsibly, you’ll obtain a credit score that shows financial responsibility.
Lenders also put a lot of emphasis on your employment. They want to know that you’ll be at the same job for the foreseeable future. Because you are an ITIN borrower, you already pose a risk of default. Lenders like to see at least a 2-year stable employment history when you don’t have a social security number.
In addition to your work history, you must prove your work ‘future.’ Because you are a foreign national, lenders care about your plans. Will you be here next year? Will you be here in three years? Most lenders require an employment contract that goes through at least the next three years. If you don’t have a contract good for at least three years, it could make it harder to get an ITIN mortgage.
Make a Large Down Payment
Unfortunately, as an ITIN borrower, you’ll need a larger down payment than borrowers with a social security number. As a general rule, plan on at least a 20% down payment. In some cases, you may need more. Lenders determine the required down payment on the riskiness of your loan.
For example, if you have a low credit score, you will need a larger down payment than someone with a higher credit score. You’ll also need a larger down payment if you have a lot of outstanding debt compared to your gross monthly income.
The down payment helps offset the risk of default. The lender knows that there is at least a little equity in the home. If you stop making your payments, the lender can sell the home for a profit and keep the funds as repayment.
Before you use funds for a down payment, you have to show its origination. In other words, you need a bank account here in the United States. You also need to be able to show regular deposits. It’s best to have your income deposited directly into your account. It’s easy for lenders to source (your paystubs) and it’s consistent. Lenders want the money in the account for at least two months before they will count it for your down payment. This way they know the money didn’t come from another loan as it would show up on your credit report.
Save Monthly Reserves
In addition to your down payment, you need money in a reserve account. Most lenders require six months’ worth of mortgage payments in your savings account or any other liquid account. If your mortgage payment were $1,200, you would need at least $7,200 in a bank account. If you run into financial trouble, the reserves are there to bail you out. Lenders rely on the reserves, so the more money you have on hand, the higher your chances of securing approval.
Have Compensating Factors
Lenders look for any compensating factors that make up for the risk that being an ITIN borrower pose. The compensating factors could be any of the following:
- High credit score
- Low debt ratio
- More than six months of reserves on hand
- Long work contract
Try to offset the riskiness of being an ITIN borrower by providing as many positive factors as you can. The more reasons a lender has to trust that you won’t default on your loan, the more likely you are to get the mortgage approval.
ITIN loan programs often foreign nationals a way to buy a home in the United States. With good credit, a decent debt ratio, and enough money saved, you should be able to get the loan you need to buy a home.